The armed Palestinian groups in Gaza have agreed to halt rocket assault on Israel, senior commander of Islamic Jihad announced yesterday. “We have agreed a way to stop the armed resistance the firing of rockets on Israel to prevent the Israeli threats,” said Daoud Shihab, a representative of the Islamic Jihad, “but the armed resistance must be actively raid targeting the [Israeli] and incursions.”
The decision to suspend the firing of rockets, however, was “temporary” and “linked connection with the situation on the ground”. The agreement between smaller factions based in Gaza, reached Wednesday at a meeting called by Hamas, coincides with rising tensions due to an escalation of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli reprisals.
Israeli shelling and gunfire have killed at least 14 Palestinians this month and aggressive rhetoric on both sides has prompted concerns that a new war could ensue if violent exchanges do not end. Islamic Jihad, the Popular Struggle Front and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine have come under strong pressure from Hamas, which rules Gaza, to abide by the ceasefire reached in January 2009, ending Israel’s all-out offensive against the Strip.
It has caused widespread destruction and has killed more than 1,440 people, most of them civilians. Hamas’s political leadership has also had to impose its will on the movement’s own military wing, the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, which has suspended the firing of missiles into Israel but has ex- pressed determination to continue mounting attacks on Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Spokesman Abu Ubayda said the force was observing the 2009 ceasefire with respect to rockets to prevent Gaza from being drawn into a new war. “However, if that war erupts, we will not stand by with our hands folded; we will fight fiercely.” The brigades’ statement was issued a day after Mahmoud Zahar, a senior political figure regarded as a hardliner, said Hamas was committed to the truce and called on other factions to abide by it.
Palestinian analyst Wisam Afifa expressed the view of many in Gaza when he argued that Israel was preparing for a second Gaza war. He said the Israeli military did not achieve its objectives in the 2008- 2009 war – the collapse of the de facto Hamas government and the elimination of armed resistance.
The Israelis “want to restore their deterrence and they know that the resistance took advantage of the ceasefire to upgrade its military skills”. He added: “Hamas is not planning to confront the Israeli army and is trying to avoid providing the Israelis with any pretext to wage war again.”
Hamas has tried unsuccessfully to forge an end to rocket to a lifting of Israeli siege and blockade of Gaza to allow building materials, so Gazans could rebuild the houses and shops were destroyed during the war. But construction is still prohibited, even if Israel eased the blockade slightly since last summer after the Israeli raid in naval commandos on a ferry blockade Turkish snack.